This One Is Strictly For The Kids

Director: Kelly Asbury

Starring: Demi Lovato, Ariel Winter, Michelle Rodriguez Joe Manganiello, Danny Pudi, Jack McBrayer, Ellie Kemper, Mandy Patinkin, Rainn Wilson and Julia Roberts

Studio: Sony Pictures Animation

Rated: G

Running Time: I Hr, 29 Mins

Animation has carved out a sizeable niche at the box office by offering something that both kids and adults can appreciate. A successful family film can get both laughing at the same jokes but for different reasons, meaning the trip is just as enjoyable for the parents. All the big players in animation have mastered this formula to varying degrees, which is why they’re big players.

Smurfs: The Lost Village is not one of those films, but is still a great time for the kids nonetheless.

Video: Sony Pictures Entertainment

As the only girl in the village (and the only Smurf without an occupation in her name), Smurfette struggles to find her place among her fellow Smurfs. Still haunted by her unnatural origins (originally created by the evil Gargamel to help destroy Smurf village before being transformed into a real Smurf by Papa Smurf), she stumbles upon the possibility that there may be another village of Smurfs.

When Gargamel (hungry to drain the Smurfs of their magical essence in order to become the most powerful wizard in the world) also learns of this other village, Smurfette recruits friends Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty (who also happens to be crushing on the village’s lone bachelorette) to embark on a mission to find and warn the mysterious lost village. None of them are quite prepared for what they find.

Lost Village will likely make you pine for the Saturday mornings of your childhood while entertaining your kids at the same time. It doesn’t do a bad job invoking the spirit of the 80’s Smurf cartoon while making the little blue elves modern and contemporary. It captures the enthusiastic spirit of family that the cartoon was so successful at embodying.

There are a few nostalgic chuckles here and there but most of the humour is slapstick visual gags aimed at the under eleven crowd. The voice cast does a decent job and there’s no shortage of one-line cameos that will bring a smile to your face (Gordon Ramsay as Baker Smurf, Gabriel Iglesias as Jokey Smurf). Rainn Wilson infuses just the right amount of dry absurdity into everyone’s favourite cranky wizard Gargamel (and in a nice little nostalgic gesture, renown voice actor Frank Welker, who voiced Hefty in the original 80’s cartoon, voices Gargamel’s cat Azrael). Mandy Patinkin manages to get convincingly paternal as Papa Smurf and Michelle Rodriguez brings her trademark toughness to Smurfstorm (one of the lost village’s inhabitants). But it’s Jack McBrayer who steals scenes as the film’s resident neurotic, Clumsy Smurf (when Clumsy isn’t tripping over thin air he is usually having some sort of emotional breakdown).

Its tough to judge Smurfs: The Lost Village against the previous Smurfs movies that combined live action and CGI. Each has their pros and cons but going completely animated allows Village to go crazy with the sight gags, which are pretty much the biggest reason to see it. The animation is vibrantly colourful and parents will like the theme of female empowerment aimed at little girls, but aside from the nostalgia factor there’s little here for adults.

But if you need something to entertain the kids one rainy weekend, you could do worse.

Image: Sony Pictures Animation